Battle of Britton

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer dislikes giving one guy the punting AND place-kicking duties. But Fulmer dislikes losing even more.

That's why junior Britton Colquitt heads into preseason drills as the No. 1 option for both jobs. Based on spring practice, he appears to give the Vols the best chance to win.

Colquitt is the preseason All-SEC punter after averaging 44.9 yards per kick last fall. With the Vols scrambling to replace four-year starting kicker James Wilhoit, Colquitt also may double as the kickoff and placement specialist.

"Britton obviously is a real important factor in what we're trying to do, as far as field position," Fulmer said. "His punting can be a real weapon for us. Right now, as we go in, he would still be the guy to kick."

Colquitt and redshirt freshman Daniel Lincoln waged quite a battle for the place-kicking job last spring. Colquitt has a stronger leg, which makes him better suited to handle kick-offs and long field goals. Lincoln showed a little better accuracy in the spring, so he might find a role, as well.

"As Daniel Lincoln continues to progress, we may end up with Britton kicking the longer field goals and Daniel kicking the shorter ones," Fulmer said. "I just don't know how that will play out."

One factor working strongly in Colquitt's favor is the fact he already has two years of college football experience, whereas Lincoln has never kicked in a college game. Colquitt's poise showed when he calmly booted a 51-yard field goal in the Orange & White Game last spring.

"I know when Britton kicked that 51-yarder in the spring game Daniel was mad as heck on the sideline at me for not giving him the chance to do that," Fulmer said. "I like Daniel's competitive spirit. He's made a lot of progress. Hopefully, we can be solid there."

Whoever wins the kickoff job will face a tougher task than Wilhoit had the past four years. The NCAA has moved kickoffs from the 35-yard line to the 30 this year, which makes a good kick more important than ever. Like his fellow SEC coaches, Fulmer believes the new rule will have major impact.

"The return game is going to be huge," the Vol coach said. "They're moving the kickoff back to the 30, so kickoff returns and kickoff coverage are going to become an even bigger factor in the game.

"That's something we've spent a lot of time with, and we'll spend even more time on it this year. That now is a legitimate offensive and defensive play every time you kick it off."

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